5.) RAUL IBANEZ
Raul Ibanez came to the KC Royals as a 29-year-old career minor leaguer in 2001, because the moribund Royals offered him something no other major league team was willing to do: a chance at a regular job.
Ibanez rewarded Kansas City’s faith with a solid .286/.343/.483 triple slash in three seasons in which he progressed from bench player to an above-average corner outfielder. He left Kansas City after the 2003 season when Seattle offered him a lucrative free-agent contract.
Ibanez went on to hit 305 home runs, make an all-star squad at age 37, and play in the 2009 World Series with the Philadelpha Phillies. Despite blossoming as a starter only at age 29, Ibanez managed to fashion a 19-year career in major league baseball.
But, Ibanez isn’t on this list for any of that. Instead, Ibanez returned to the KC Royals as a 42-year-old on his last baseball legs after the Los Angels Angels cut him in 2014. Though finished as an effective player (Ibanez hit a mere .188/.278/.325 for the Royals in 2014), Ibanez changed the direction of Royals history with one clubhouse speech.
Soon after picking up Ibanez on waivers, the Royals fell into four-game losing streak following the 2014 All-Star break. With their playoff hopes looking bleak at 48-50. Raul Ibanez called a players-only meeting and told his teammates that other teams hated to play them due to their talent.
Ibanez convinced his young teammates that they all they needed to become winners was confidence.
The Kansas City Royals then reeled off six straight wins, and went 17-3 over a twenty game stretch to propel themselves into contention. They eventually earned the A.L.’s top Wild Card and ran through the playoffs to win the 2014 A.L. pennant.
Despite losing the 2014 World Series to the Giants in seven games, Raul Ibanez’s speech triggering a run that transformed the KC Royals franchise and led to the 2015 title.
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